At the end of his timeless masterpiece, Faust, Goethe captured the very essence of womanhood: “the eternal feminine draws us on high.” It’s true, angelic femininity is capable of generating the spiritual ascension of the man. Yet on numerous occasions, history delivered examples of women whose main attributes are not their beauty, femininity, elegance, or innocence.
There’s a common misconception that only men are capable of violence and murder. Nothing more than empty assumptions. Some of history’s greatest horrors and atrocities share a common signature, that of women’s. Whether they were hungry for power, greedy for money, or simply disturbed, they stand as the perfect archetype of a psychopath, the absolute proof that refutes the hypothesis that men are the only ones capable of outrageous crimes.
Women have been associated with evil since the dawn of time. From the Old Testament with the Temptation of Eve, an interesting allusion to snakes and women, to the legend depicting Lilith the female-demon as “the first Eve,” everything suggests there’s something diabolical lurking inside women’s souls. Sure, they can be powerful and vengeful if aroused, but many have to agree all of the above are nothing more than superstitions. Are they really? Throughout history, there have been women who proved to be downright diabolical, their cruelty and ferocity being without measure. They committed hideous murders, terrified countries and generations, becoming the inspiration behind legends, novels, and movies. They literally went over bodies to reach their malefic goals.
10. God’s Maid – Isabella of Castile (1451-1504)
Isabella of Castile, patron of Christopher Columbus, is responsible for the 200,000 Spaniards who fled the country for fear of the Inquisition and converting to Catholicism. Those who stayed either faced persecutions, or were executed by the Inquisition. She and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, initiated the unification process of Spain, which eventually became unified under their nephew, Carlos I. As part of the process, Isabella named Tomas de Torquemada as first general Inquisitor. On March 31, 1492, Isabella of Castile issued the Alhambra Decree, forcibly expelling or converting Muslims and Jews to Catholicism. Yet, Catholic writings still refer to Isabella as “God’s Maid.”
9. Bloody Mary – Queen Mary I (1516-1558)
The only survivor of the doomed marriage between King Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon, Queen Mary I, was the couple’s only child who reached adulthood. She was crowned queen after the sudden death of Edward VI, who was well aware of her fanaticism and tried to keep her away from the throne. Also known as Bloody Mary, her name will forever be associated with England’s temporary, yet extremely violent return to Catholicism. Queen Mary I ordered the execution and torture of 300 Protestants, just because she was against their beliefs. She even executed Lady Jane, her 16 year old cousin, who fell victim to a plot in the family. Fearing of being hung, over 800 Protestants fled the country.
8. The Angel of Death – Beverly Gail Allitt (1968)
One of England’s most sadistic serial killers, Beverly Gail Allitt worked as a pediatric nurse. Four infants died in her care, and five were injured. During the autopsy, it was found that she gave them shots of insulin and potassium, which caused a heart attack or stroke. It was later found that she intended to kill 13 more children, but she was stopped before administering the shot. Nicknamed “The Angel of Death,” Allitt could not deliver a motif for her crimes. Specialists believe she is suffering from Munchhausen syndrome, a complex form of maltreatment in which the patient falsifies and induces an emotional or physical sickness to a person in their care. Beverly continued to mutilate herself in prison, and is due for release in 2022.
7. England’s Most Diabolical Woman – Myra Hindley (1942-2002)
Myra Hindley and her lover, Ian Brady, are one of the most famous killer couples in history, and the culprits of some of the bloodiest murders in the 20th century England. They are responsible for the Moors Murders in Manchester that shocked England in the mid 1960’s. The two monsters kidnapped, sexually abused, and tortured three children under the age of 12, and two teenagers aged 16 and 17. Myra took pictures of her victims, even made short films, all of which were ultimately found and used as incriminating evidence to sentence Myra to life in prison. The press called her “England’s Most Diabolical Woman” and it was not just the crimes that brought her notoriety, but also her arrogance. Throughout her trial, she didn’t seem to care much about the accusations. She was even eating sweets while she was presented with the evidence that would put her away for life.
6. Lady Bluebeard – Belle Gunness (1859-1931)
One of the most “productive” serial killers America has ever seen, Belle Gunness was a tall, massive, strong, and imposing woman. She was born in Norway, emigrated to America, and married a fellow countryman. The two lived together for 10 years, until Belle’s greed took possession of her soul. A fire burst out at the pastry shop the couple owned, killing her oldest daughter. She cashed the insurance policy and bought a bigger house, which soon burned down as well. Then, another one of her children died. Two years later, her husband died, showing signs of strychnine poisoning. Again, she cashed the policy, moved to a farm with her three remaining children, remarried, this time her husband dying after two years. A series of workers at the farm disappeared, and another fire burst out. In the ruins of the farm, the bodies of three of her children and that of a decapitated woman were found. It is not sure whether Belle died in the fire, or she somehow managed to elude the authorities, staging the last, perfect crime. Nicknamed “Lady Bluebeard,” reports state that Belle committed 20 murders, but other sources claim there might have been as many as 100 victims.
5. The Black Widow – Mary Ann Cotton (1832-1873)
Mary Ann Cotton married young and had eight children. They soon began to die one by one. Seven died of gastric fever with severe abdominal pain. She and her husband moved up north, but the tragedy seemed to follow. Soon after, her husband died, blaming intestinal disorders. Mary cashed in an insurance policy, and soon remarried. Her second husband died a year after in similar conditions. She went on to murder her own mother and the daughter that survived from her first marriage, remarried two more times, killed both husbands as well as her children with them. The series of coincidences drew the attention of the press, and Mary was finally caught. Considered the third most prolific serial killer in history, she was hanged on March 24, 1873. It was a slow and painful death, the hangman using a shorter rope to prolong her agony.
4. Australia’s Hannah Lecter – Katherine Knight (1956)
Katherine Knight entered history as the first woman in Australia to be sentenced to life in prison. She horrified the country when she killed her second husband with 37 stab wounds, then skinned him and hanged his skin in front of the livingroom door. She cut his head and used it to make soup, and fried his buttocks and served them with a vegetable garnish. She prepared the meal for her children, but the police caught her just as she was serving dinner. Katherine had a case history of violence. She took out her first husband’s teeth and ground them, tried to kill him on numerous occasions, and split open the throat of a puppy in front of him. She pleaded guilty, but believed that the sentence was too harsh for her crime.
3. Countess Dracula – Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614)
No introductions are necessary when it comes to Elizabeth Bathory, the most blood-thirsty killer in the history of Hungary. Legend has it the duchess bathed in the blood of virgins, hoping to achieve eternal youth. Of all the savage crimes she committed, this is the only one that could not be proven. Elizabeth was a noblewoman who became known as Countess Dracula. Over the course of 25 years, hundreds of young girls disappeared without a trace after starting work at her castle. King Mathias II heard rumors about terrible atrocities and crimes going on in the countess’ castle, and sent investigators who found mutilated bodies, their faces burned and their genitalia ripped out. Although the official number was 80, witnesses claim there may have been more than 650 victims. Elizabeth Bathory was never tried, her social status saving her from justice. However, she was locked up in a room of her castle, where she lived until her death.
2. The Bitch of Buchenwald – Ilse Koch (1906-1967)
Ilse Koch joined the Nazi Party in 1932, and married Karl Otto Koch in 1934. When her husband was appointed commander of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald, Ilse became the sadistic head of the guards. Suggestively called “The Bitch of Buchenwald,” she orchestrated the most twisted torture techniques, collecting the tattooed skin of inmates sentenced to death, using it to make lampshades. She had several prisoners executed just because she wanted their skin. Survivors tell the story of how Ilse would walk around naked, holding a whip, and if any of the inmates as much as blinked, they would be shot on the spot. It is estimated that 56,000 persons lost their lives at Buchenwald. Ilse was also famous for her affairs, as she was never discreet about her promiscuity. She was sentenced to life in prison, and committed suicide in 1967, hanging herself in her cell.
1. The Beautiful Beast – Irma Grese (1923-1945)
Another product of the Nazi regime, a female character with bloody hands, Irma Grese worked as a guardian for the concentration camps at Ravensbruck, Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen. After being transferred at Auschwitz in 1943, she was promoted, thus becoming one of the few women to be offered a management position in a concentration camp. Nicknamed “The Beautiful Beast,” Irma fed female prisoners to hungry dogs. She sexually abused, whipped, and shot them. She personally selected the inmates that would be sent to the gas chambers. A ferocious, cold-blooded killer, Irma is responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Jewish women.